Journey to motherhood

Sara Aronovitch-Karpanos at her house next to her drawings and illustrations (photo credit: YACHATZ)
Sara Aronovitch-Karpanos at her house next to her drawings and illustrations
(photo credit: YACHATZ)
It’s the summer of 1984. Imagine finding yourself in the far reaches of Brazil, after traveling thousands of miles from Tel Aviv to come across a remote village where suddenly you hear the cries of a baby – or two. Nervously, yet with anticipation, you walk into what seems like a home. Two babies are lying on a bed, tears streaming down their faces as their tiny voices clamor for attention. There’s just one problem: Neither baby is the one you are looking for.
This was the journey of Sara Aronovitch-Karpanos, who, after 10 years of unsuccessful fertility treatments, decided it was time to adopt. Without the help of an adoption agency or non-profit organization, she found a way, although the path to finding her soonto- be daughter wasn’t without its trials.
The initial trauma related to her desire for motherhood stemmed from her own mother’s recounting of the torture it was to give birth to her. It took 36 hours of labor before Sara was brought into this world, and although no one recalls the first moments of life, her mother made sure her daughter had a pretty good idea.
“She kept telling me about her bad experience since I was a little child, and it got me really scared about ever doing the same thing,” Aronovitch-Karpanos said.
“Unfortunately, it worked. Psychologically it worked. It affected my body.”
She never got pregnant. All medical testing throughout those 10 grueling years of fertility treatments showed that physically she was completely capable of having children – but a fear sown from infancy proved to be too powerful an obstacle.
“I was afraid that if I had to suffer any pain, I would just die,” she said.
When she turned to adoption as a solution, new challenges presented themselves.
First, she was told she was too old, at the age of 30, to mother a newborn. Others advised her to wait nearly a decade if she really wanted to adopt, adding that the child should be at least four or five years old at the time of adoption.
“I told them, ‘you wait eight years. I’m going to be a mom this year,’” she retorted.
Her determination, her husband’s support, and ultimately love for this future child motivated her to push through doubts hurled at her by naysayers. Through a strong network of friends in South America, Brazil became a likely location from which to adopt. Soon she was connected to a family who wished to put their son up for adoption, but upon arriving in Sao Paolo, the newborn fell ill and was placed in an incubator for at least three months.
Aronovitch-Karpanos was running out of time.
“There’s no way that I came empty-handed and I’m going back empty-handed,” she recalled telling herself.
After hearing the sad news of the first possible adoption, she was connected with a family who said they had a daughter with red hair and green eyes. This red-headed newborn led Sara and her husband to a favela (slum) two hours from São Paolo by plane, where she heard the cries of two babies and found them lying on a bed. It was there she met Rotem, although instead of red hair, she had red skin – a detail lost in translation.
“She was red because she was crying all the time, and the green eyes weren’t green, they were a brownish kind of color, and that’s my girl,” she said. When they arrived back in São Paolo, she added, “that’s when love began, and it never stops.”
The question of being a mother was never one of genetic relation for either Sara or Rotem. When Rotem turned 16, her mother gave her the chance to visit the village in Brazil where she was born. Rotem refused.
“She said, ‘Mom, are you crazy? You are my mom, Dad is my dad. I don’t have any other mom and dad.’” Rotem, now 32, feels almost lucky to have been adopted.
“As for the rest of you guys, your parents got stuck with you,” Rotem said. “I was chosen.”
Aronovitch-Karpanos has continued to make choices that greatly impact the lives of those around her, not only personally, but artistically. Eighteen years ago she embarked on a secondary journey that began with the ending of another.
“When I felt this urge to write and to draw... four months later, my father passed away,” she said. “So I could really say that he handed me over his throne.”
Her art ranges from children’s book illustrations to poetry, and includes a variety of topics such as romance, health, imagination, historical struggle and daily life. Her most recent work is an autobiography titled 36 Hours after the amount of time her mother was in labor before Sara was born.
Both writing and drawing are a liberating experience for her, and chronicling her life experience provided a window into the imagination that drives some of her more avant-garde pieces. She remembered a day when she was lying in bed due to a foot injury, and was spontaneously inspired to begin drawing the foot that was raised in front of her each day. Instead of drawing the foot itself, however, she drew other body parts onto it, creating a visually striking piece.
As the spokesperson of the Hebrew Writers Association, she also has an entrepreneurial side that she actively combines with her artwork. Periodically she gathers poets from across Israel and finds composers to create music that can accompany their poems – every now and then throwing in a few works of her own.
“The best thing about the paper is it can never say no. And it never does.”